The idea of understanding Urbanism as “plural experience and not a singular event” allows somewhat unfinished yet more accurate representation of reality; the observation of the cultural landscape and the personal and subjective narratives of the flaneur both become important tools to witness and express moments of interaction.
There has been a notable shift in the approach to planning from modernist thinking (Le Corbusier and those influenced by his thinking such as Robert Moses) to later approaches such as the Smithsons from Team 10 and today (New Urbanists for example) - the former approached urban interventions from above (a studio set up in a hotel suite thirty floors above the ground), whereas the latter...
The readings and assignment explore the interesting subject of the derive. I have to admit, I am skeptical to the value of this method for its practical applications to urban design. I did enjoy my derive as an extended "vacation" within the city, exploring places I would not have gone or taking routes for no reason.
I his essay McDonough comments on Guy Debord's "The Naked City", a diagrammatic map showing the multitude of potential ambulatory connections between fragmentary parts of Paris. The fragments are parts of "localized space", cohesive realms with similar "atmospheres".
Corner asks us to consider the difference between a “map” and the “tracing that is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real.” This is particularly relevant to our derive assignment- during our dérive, I was surprised after the fact by how impeded I felt in many situations, how strongly I sometimes wanted to resist going past a certain barrier to enter a space...
The "Sphinx in the City" is just one more analog of how we perceive the city and can act as a tool for both analyzing the city and the sociology of the city. Just as the Chicago school overlaid ecological analogs on the city, so to does Wilson. The question for me is to what degree do these analogies truly help us understand the city and help the city develop.
"His(Walter Benjamin) perception, like that of the dandies, 'makes strange' the familiar and disregarded aspects of city life. It inverts our values: what was once seen as marginal becomes the essence of city life and that which makes it truly beautiful, even if its beauty is a beauty of ugliness." pg 5, into the labyrinth
Exploration of a city today is lost in a sense, but expanded in another. The heavy and prevalent reliance on digital communication has altered urban movement and interaction, an alteration from spontaneity to orchestration. In the contemporary world especially, time is the currency. We want to be here at this time so we can have lunch there then catch a cab in time for that.
In the texts by Poe, Benjamin and Wilson, the trivial and fragmented aspects of the city, particularly the street life, have been explored and romanticized. In this context, the flaneur's endless and circular journey through the labyrinth(the city) becomes a telescope through which the audience can take a peek at the lives of people.
Wilson in "Into the Labyrinth" talks about the historical view of women's presence in the city as a problem: "the city offers untrammelled sexual experience; in the city the forbidden - what is most feared and desired - becomes possible.
Taken as a whole, this week’s readings seem to emphasize multiplicity in possible interpretations of the city at a more personal level. Poe takes what might be the most personal interpretation by actively focusing on and following an old man as he wanders the city after dark.
I really enjoyed this week's readings, particularly Poe's Man of the Crowd, Bejamin's piece on the flaneur, and Thrift's Legibility of the Everyday City. In different ways, each relates interpretations of the city which individualize the experience of urbanity.
Mitchell, Howell, and Hutchinson talk about ways public space comes to be “owned” or occupied and the sociopolitical relations which play out in the ownership of public spaces- It seems in the writing of Howell and Mitchell, the ownership comes from a passive use according to demand, and in the case of the volleyball players or skateboarders, their need for a public space is being well...
It is very interesting how the authors of the three pieces for this week use simple issues such as park use and bus ridership to express more complex and important aspects such as class struggles, racism, gentrification, planning, and the right to the city. I wonder what other vehicles can be used to successfully portray similar or other urban and socio-economic issues.
The Mitchell reading regarding People's Park reminded me of somethings I had read before. "The right to the city" was a term that I remember Henri Lefebvre wrote about circa the 1968 Paris uprising. The idea of what Jurgen Habermas termed the "public sphere" is closely intertwined the the concept of the common, shared space and democracy.
Vidler's essay brought to light interesting notions of how urban spaces evolve in there formal characteristics as the human race modernized. Unlike Milgram, who generates an image of the city in a similar way to Lynch, but using psychology more as a method for tapping into mental mapping, Vidler describes how psychological conditions can lend to certain formal manifestations.
The Metropolis is an ironic device
It respects the individual, but the individuals lack individuality.
It harvests lives for people, but of them rarely dwell.
It grows in the number of inhabitants, but their relationships narrow down.
It has more buildings then ever, but hardly any architecture.
Its faster than ever, but has no time to spare.
In Vidler's text "Agoraphobia: Spatial Estrangement in Georg Simmel and Siegfried Kracauer," Simmel's theory (and Kracauer's analysis of the theory) on the relation between social order and spatial dimensions, especially estrangement.
In The Metropolis and Mental Life, Georg Simmel states an interesting viewpoint from his particular time period at the very beginning of the 20th century. He views the city several decades after the Industrial Revolution and reflects on the new urban centers that have been transformed into massive metropolis which now present new logics and affect their inhabitants in ways before unseen.
I found the idea that wide-open spaces are estranging or anti-human especially fascinating because in the second year studios, we've been repeatedly encouraged to maximize the amount of open space in our schemes, both to deal with pragmatic issues like sea level rise and storm surges and to meet some monumental demand caused by the Olympic backdrop of the project.
For studio at the beginning of this semester, we were asked to conceptualize the city as it's smallest, most basic entity - one person proposed an idea that a city is a place where a person can be a stranger, anonymous. Are things in the city as Simmel says?
I found the essay "Face Engagements" to be a really interesting perspective on how we construct urban society. The author analyzes the different ways people recognize (or do not recognize) the presence of others in the public urban sphere.
I couldn't help but wonder how relevant these readings are today, and how they differ across different cultures. Many of the methods for analysis used for observation can be applied in other parts of the world, and I wonder what we may learn about different cultures in different eras when we compare such analyses. How do issues of racism change (or not) over time/culture?
This week our readings delve into growth and social organization of the city- the city as a phenomenon. There are the conditions of extension, succession, concentration and decentralization as terms used to describe the physicality of the city timeline, as fi the city is a body of its own.
Burgess defines differentiated zones created from the expansion of the city, where people are sorted by residence and occupation. He describes a process of organization, disorganization, and reorganization in terms of metabolism moving toward equilibrium.
Fainstein uses “investigative journalism” as the primary method of gathering information, by interviewing individuals she found through word of mouth. This attempt, to reveal the cultural, political and economic landscape behind the hardscape that we see on the streets, seems to have issues of misrepresentation and under-representation.
Fainstein says in her piece that "Governments have promoted physical change with the expectations that better-looking cities are also better cities, that excluding poor people from central locations will eliminate the causes of blight rather than moving it elsewhere, and that property development equals economic development".
R.D. McKenzie points out that "many communities have passed through swift successive cycles of growth or decline, the determining factors being changes in forms and routes of transportation and communication and the rise of new industries." Although a conjecture of cause and effect, McKenzie makes a point applicable to the state of today's cities in the United States.
The readings this week seemed to all touch on ideas of inheritance. Whether by individuals inhabiting newly renovated buildings (Brainard) or researches attempting to engage with the history of a place (Holdsworth) or even assertions about what is and can be (Groth and Bressi), they are all a product of what it is we encounter in our urban environments.
In Frameworks for Cultural Landscape Study, Paul Groth stresses the importance of cultural landscape studies to be all-inclusive, especially of the everyday spaces. He states, “How can we better understand ordinary environments as crucibles of cultural meaning and environmental experience. A critical word in this formulation is ordinary.
Paul Groth explains that the studies of cultural landscape can be applied at the political and personal level and defines the ultimate objective of cultural landscape writing is “to inform the public.(10)”
In the Holdsworth reading this week, he discusses various reasons why there has been a shift in theory to go beyond the cultural landscape approach for effective human geography research. One such reason is the almost total absence of women scholars in the earlier traditions of human geography.
New Haven's process of handpicking families for the Court Street redevelopment demonstrates the aspiration of that era: the ideal neighborhood housed middle-class working families, primarily white but also somewhat racially integrated, and whose architecture borrowed from suburban, pastoral ideals: small streets, few cars, wide sidewalks and close-knit neighborhoods.
"Flexible design enabled Court Street to adapt to changes that could never have been anticipated by its nineteenth-century builders." (29) Brainard seems to be convinced that flexible design is the main, if not the only, reason Court Street was able to survive over the years. What about other physical aspects such as aesthetics? the stoops? the spatial enclosure of the street?
“Social networks involve mutual obligations. They create norms of reciprocity that govern how people expect to be ‘paid back’ for the help they give to others.” Here Brainard is speaking specifically to the conditions of neighborhoods in his piece on New Haven's Court Street.